Speed up your older MacBook Pro with a Solid State Drive (SSD)

Updated June 10th, 2019.

It’s much more economical to speed up an existing MacBook Pro than to buy a new one, and the best way to improve an older MacBook Pro’s performance is to replace the original, spinning hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). This makes a huge difference– much more than adding RAM, much more than reinstalling the OS. There’s a reason Apple now puts SSDs in every laptop they sell– it’s because they’re fast.

If your Apple laptop is more than a couple of years old there’s a good chance Apple didn’t put a solid state drive in it (because until recently the prices for SSDs were super high). Instead, until recently, Apple installed a more economical storage system– a spinning hard drive.

You need to find out whether your Mac already has a solid state drive or not, and if it doesn’t, you need to find out how big your new SSD has to be. It’s easy to find out– just go to About this Mac, then click on Storage. You’ll get a picture like this.

The 500 GB SATA Disk is a good candidate for replacement with an SSD

The Mac in the picture above is using about 305 GB of storage, so you need to buy a drive at least that big. Solid state drives typically are sold as 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB (1000 GB), or 2 TB (2000 GB) sizes, FYI.

Bonus: you can ask Siri (on your iPhone or iPad) to do the math for you.

If you see a picture like the one below, indication Flash Storage, your Mac is not going to get faster by replacing what’s there with a solid state drive, because Flash Storage is already solid state. (You might want to increase the capacity though– in that case, this article might help you.)

Flash Storage

Assuming you don’t already have an SSD or Flash Drive in your Mac laptop, and you know how much storage you need, the next step is to get yourself a nice new SSD. The SSDs I use are from Crucial, and I get them from Amazon. There are other brands but I’d go with Crucial if I were you. Crucial’s a big player in memory products and their stuff works great in Macs. This is years of experience talking.

Crucial BX100
Crucial Solid State Drive (SSD)

Prices on SSDs have fallen like a stone, making them a very attractive upgrade. A one-terabyte SSD that cost me almost $400 in 2015 is now about $140. A 500 GB SSD is about $75. Wait another couple of years and they’ll be putting them in boxes of cereal.

You have to figure out how to get your data from the old drive to the new one, and you have to open up your Mac to swap in the new drive. There are YouTube.com videos that will tell you how to do it.

Depending on who your brother is, he might be very practiced in this sort of thing and if you ask nicely he might do if for you. Possibly.

There are many ways to get your data from your old drive to the new one, including using Apple’s Disk Utility, Carbon Copy Cloner, and SuperDuper. I use Carbon Copy Cloner, with the new drive connected to the Mac with a cable, as if it’s (temporarily) an external drive You’ll need a cable to connect the bare drive to your Mac— I got mine at Amazon.

It comes down to this: buy a solid state drive, connect it with a cable, use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy everything to the new drive, then open up the Mac and replace the old drive with the new one. Here’s how About this Mac might look when you’re done.

About this Mac, on a machine with a Solid State Drive

You can tell that the drive in this machine is a 1 TB (terabyte) Solid State Drive. That’s because this machine’s already been upgraded. If you see something more like this:

Note: for an iMac, which is difficult to open and work on, try an external SSD connected via USB. You need to set the SSD as the startup drive when you’re done.

Advice: it’s a good idea to test that your Mac will start from the new drive before you go through the trouble of opening up your machine. Do this by holding the Option key while restarting, then choosing the new drive. The Mac will start from the new drive even though it’s not inside yet.

More advice: if you’re using Microsoft Office 2011 you’ll have a very rough time activating it again. If you still have the installer DVD and license code you can try reinstalling and re-licensing. If you don’t, you’ll find you can open, but not edit, your Word and Excel documents. You may find the answer in my article about re-registering Microsoft Office 2011 but it might turn out to be easier to spend $100/year to have the new Office package (Office 365). You were going to have to upgrade someday anyway.

Even more advice: if you use Dropbox you’re going to have to sign in again. Signing in requires a user name (an email address) and a password. Make sure you have that info in advance. It makes things easier for you.

An SSD will make your MacBook Pro faster than it ever was. If you have questions, contact me. I’ll help.

Yes it probably took you more than one minute to read this. But it’s so cool.

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